We begin with Peggy, chatting to Helen about the custody trial and how pleased she is about the outcome “It’s a wonderful Christmas present, knowing Jack only has to see his Father once a month,”and “There’s a whole week of anniversaries coming up – David and Ruth, Tony and Pat and Adam and Ian.” Some will go better than others. She also voices concerns about the land deal fracturing the family.

    Brian is discussing the land deal with Justin. Justin wants things speeded up. Jennifer and Peggy turn up for a posh lunch. “Is your wife not with you this weekend?,” pipes up innocent Peggy. Brian chokes. Peggy dodders on over lunch about her will and family concerns over Brian’s enormous land deal. Brian still hasn’t spoken to Debbie. “She’s a very busy woman.” And a very expensive actress, now. After lunch, Brian is upset about Peggy’s reticence and begins mending a fence in the rain. Jennifer comes to see him, now voicing a little concern about the deal - “you can’t put a value on a happy family.”

    The Pyrex Kid is with Johnny. “Johnny’s good a cricket – just like my dad,” pipes up the Synthetic One. Helen and Johnny just ride over that particular bump in the road. Johnny has been asked to model at the student fashion show by some girl he fancies called Amber. He’s growing a beard for the occasion. Or is trying to .

    Susan has booked Neil a wet shave for the family picture, which is finally happening. Susan is still worried about the dress, although asking Neil about fashion isn’t always helpful. HE prefers the red fake velvet one she wore ages ago. “I gave it to charity,” snaps Susan.

    David is offered two mince pies – one from Jill and one from Ruth. We don’t find out which he prefers, but we can guess. Ruth is worried about the Pip/Jill feud ruining Christmas. Meanwhile, Pip is trying to plan Christmas with Toby. Toby is upset about the fact that Pip will be paying for everything. Pip also wants to invest the five grand she made on cattle in Toby’s crackpot artisan gin project. This won’t go well. “I’m just investing in our future.” I’m not sure Toby was planning on that much of a future.

    Neil is proud of his wet shave and gets Toby to stroke his chin. Kate is moaning about slaving over the costumes. She’s had a Christmas card from her Forgotten Children in Africa and is moping about the lack of kisses. Hard to imagine why her children would be so unloving towards their dedicated mother.

    At the much-planned Carter family studio portrait, Susan arrives in the red dress that Neil liked. “You look more beautiful than I ever remember.” Awww.

    Lynda is wound very tight about the Panto – concerns over the unfinished costumes and the casting of Kenton in the lead. “ He’s completely unmanageable.”

    Emmar and Ed are discussing the photoshoot. It went very well, apparently. Emmar wants to take the kids to a professional panto with “that bloke from Eastenders.” It will be £100 for the four of them. Ed doesn’t think they can afford it. But Emmar wears him down – “no treats, no summer holiday, no trips to the seaside.” Emmar always liked the finer thngs, and marrying ex crack addict Ed has not helped her. Maybe she should have stuck with dull Will.

    Brian and Jennifer are STILL discussing the land deal. Justin isn’t going to put the land on the open market until January. Debbie has finally called (off microphone) – she’s coming home for Christmas. Is Ruari going to make it home, too, or will he be left at Dotheboys Hall over the festive period?

    Helen is planning a trip to see Jess, to thank her for her help at her trial. Later, at the nativity play (a little early, no?), Helen and Pat are watching the Pyrex Kid on stage and Emmar is there for Keira. Arriving late, Ed has spotted the Evil One, lurking in the foyer. After the play, Heen and Pat discuss the fact that Rob actually snuck into the hall. Pat is her usual outraged self – “I wish I could make him disappear like a pantomine baddie,” but Helen is strangely calm. She may even be feeling a tiny bit sorry for him. Don’t go there, Helen.

    Helen is setting off to see Jess. Pat is fussing terribly. “I’ve packed a cheese sandwich. And an apple. And a banana. And a flapjack.” Pat wants to come, but Helen heads off with a crying Jack. It’s a bit stilted when she gets there. Helen has given Jess a card, saying “I owe you my life.” They end up sort of bonded and head off to a soft play café. Jess bumped into Cruella and Bruce recently and Bruce called her “a liar” and “a whore.” Jess hasn’t made a formal police complaint against the Evil One, either, but she has fitted a spy hole and a new lock. “Are you still scared of him?”

    Susan is with Emmar at the café. Susan is very pleased with the photoshoot. Pat pops in for a cinnamon latte and is instantly set upon by Susan, hungry for gossip about Helen. Pat snaps her off. Susan harrumphs on about being told off for showing a “neighbourly interest.” Ed turns up, upset because the ram has managed to tear his scrotum. Ouch. The vet had to come, so big bill, no posh panto for the kids. Emmar is bitter and upset. It’s your bed, Emmar.

    At the student fashion show, Pat asks Johnny about Amber. “How do you know about Amber?” Johnny is upset that the whole family seems to know about her. Pat wants her to come to the farm. “I haven’t even asked her out, yet.” Amber is putting Johnny in formal wear as he has a “classic physique.” It doesn’t go well – Amber has a boyfriend, it seems. Johnny storms out and is replaced by Slow Freddie at the last minute, much to Elizabeth’s delight. Pat corners Johnny after – very upset “I’m going home, Jazzer needs help with the pigs.

    David and Brian discuss Christmas at the NFU annual dinner. They are both pleased to have their whole families under one roof. Not strictly true, David. Inevitably, Brian asks David about the wretched land deal. David gets all mystical and misty-eyed about standing on Lakey Hill and imagining his dad standing there - like Luke Skywalker being watched over by a glowing Obi Wan. “It’s about the land.” “Yes, it’s about the land.” This steels Brian’s resolve even further.

    The next morning, David is very hung-over, moving silage. Pip chooses this moment to tell David and Ruth that she’s not coming home for Christmas and will be spending it with Toby at Rickyard. Ruth is floored. “Christmas is supposed to be the season of good will.” Pragmatic Pip suggests that no one will have a good Christmas if Toby and she come. Ruth turns on David – “do you want to drive her away?” Ruth is upset about David and Jill being so nasty to Toby.

    There’s a knock on Helen’s door, a whiff of sulphur and a faint beating of leathery wings. “You.” “Hello, Helen,” breathes the Evil One. After a brief chat, it turns out that he’s brought presents for the boys. “In a small way, I want to be part of my boys’ Christmas.” He wants to apologise to Helen after his chats with the Vic. “I want to be a better man, Helen.” Foolishly, she takes the presents. Then, beaming a message from the darkest, most distant realms of Planet Mental, Rob says - “don’t say we’re over.” “Goodbye, Rob,” says Helen, firmly and hopefully, finally.


The Week In Ambridge

The Week In Ambridge

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I am a new listener to The Archers - my Mother started me at birth, so I have only been listening for 46 years. Apologies if I get things wrong.

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